Thursday, July 05, 2007

Hard Rain Journal 7-6-07: At The Red Mosque, Bloodshed; At Nalanda University, Hope

Image: Tara, the Green Goddess of Mercy, and Her Twenty-One Emanations

Hard Rain Journal 7-6-07: At The Red Mosque, Bloodshed; At Nalanda University, Hope

By Richard Power

If you live in the USA, you need more light than you are currently getting by peering through the narrow sphincter of the US mainstream news media.

Two Asia Times stories, one posted from Bangalore, the other from Karachi, create an intriguing counterbalance of alarm and hope.

From Karachi, Syed Saleem Shahzad posts on the siege at the Red Mosque, which is a rallying point for jihadists throughout the region. Hundreds of Islamic radicals are surrounded by 12,000 government soldiers in what looks to be a fight to the death. Pakistan, with its nuclear weapons, is probably disintegrating into chaos.

From Bangalore, Sudha Ramachandran posts on India's projection of "soft power" in the region, through underscoring its role, both ancient and modern, in the evolution and expansion of Buddhism.

The life-negating behavior, Apocalyptic world-views and militaristic agendas of Christian and Islamic extremists, often blots out the rest of the world, and with it, all of the diverse, geopolitical (and geospiritual) richness of its possibilities.

Expand your mind, open your heart.

There is still time, and timelessness.

Here are excerpts from both pieces, with links to the full text:

A fierce battle to seize Taliban and al-Qaeda assets in Pakistan has begun from the capital Islamabad, where hundreds of militants holed up in the radical Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) are surrounded by 12,000 Pakistani troops.
Significantly, Lal Masjid has become the rallying point for jihadis against the establishment. The country's jihadis have traditionally fought under the umbrella of the state in Kashmir or in Afghanistan - not against their own government.
Security forces, after delaying for months, began their assault on Lal Masjid on Tuesday, despite very real fears that the action would inflame radicals across the country, especially in the pro-Taliban tribal areas on the border with Afghanistan.
Since then, at least 24 people have died, including militants, security officers and bystanders. Scores have been injured. ...
More than 100 armed militants are thought to be well entrenched in the women's seminary adjacent to the mosque as well as in the mosque itself. The government has let several deadlines for the students to surrender expire. The latest was 12:30pm local time on Thursday. Circling Cobra helicopter gunships received heavy fire from within the mosque.
The president of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, Chaudhary Shujaat, and Ghazi spoke on Wednesday night on possible terms of surrender, but suddenly Ghazi changed his mind and refused to lay down his weapons. It is suspected that militants inside the mosque forced Ghazi to take a stand and made it clear to him that they would fight until the last man and the last bullet.

Syed Saleem Shahzad, Net closes on mosque - and Pakistan, Asia Times, 7-6-07

As the Sino-Indian battle for influence in East and Southeast Asia intensifies, India is backing its political and economic diplomacy with soft-power diplomacy. To counter China's efforts to keep India out of the region on the grounds that it is an "outsider", India is drawing attention to its solid Buddhist credentials.
Buddhism originated in India around the 5th century BC. ...
While India has emphasized its cultural and civilizational links with East and Southeast Asia for decades, this diplomacy has received a boost with the pan-Asian initiative to revive Nalanda University.
An ancient seat of learning, Nalanda University was primarily a center of Buddhist studies, but it also imparted training in fine arts, astronomy, politics and languages. The university died a slow death around the 12th century AD.
A giant, multinational effort is now on to set up an international university at Nalanda that will capture the grandeur, spirit and essence of this renowned seat of learning. Several countries, including India, Japan, Singapore and China, are part of this effort. ...
In recent years, China has been making a concerted attempt to project a Buddhism-friendly image of itself, drawing attention to its Buddhist heritage. Monasteries and temples destroyed during the Cultural Revolution have reportedly been rebuilt. Last year, China played host to the First World Buddhist Forum at Hangzhou in which Buddhist monks and scholars from 37 countries participated. ...
China's effort to project its Buddhist credentials has been tarnished by its record in Tibet. Indian officials say that so long as the Dalai Lama lives in India and millions of Tibetan Buddhist refugees remain in India, China's claims over Buddhism will be weak. While China's Buddhist credentials are questionable thanks to its blood-soaked record vis-a-vis Tibetan Buddhists, that of India's is impeccable. China cannot match India's formidable record as a protector of Buddhism. India has provided refuge to millions of Tibetan Buddhists fleeing Chinese oppression.

Sudha Ramachandran, India has its own 'soft power' - Buddhism, Asia Times, 7-4-07

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